The homeless-man “draft Manziel” anecdote, which arguably was made by ESPN into something more than Browns owner Jimmy Haslam intended, created the unmistakable impression that Haslam influenced the selection of quarterback Johnny Manziel in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft.
With or without that story, the buzz in league circles is that Manziel was indeed a Haslam selection.
This doesn’t mean that Haslam ordered G.M. Ray Farmer to take Manziel. That’s not how it happens. But the man who writes the checks has a way of making his preferences known, and the men whose ability to continue to cash those checks hinges on the owner’s willingness to write them need to be smart enough to know when hints are being dropped.
So while Haslam would never speak up in the draft room about taking a given player, Haslam surely would find a way to make his views known in other ways. And why shouldn’t he? It’s his team. If he wants a given guy, he should say so. And the thinking is that: (1) Haslam wanted Manziel; and (2) Haslam found a way to say so.
Friday’s comments from G.M. Ray Farmer regarding the Manziel selection seem to balance the reality that, while Haslam doesn’t pull rank in the draft room, he doesn’t have to.
“Jimmy is what he’s been the entire time,” Farmer said. “He asked a lot of questions. He wants to be involved. He’ll make his position known, like we all do. It’s a very collaborative process. The coaches have input, the scouts have input; the board is ranked. Nevertheless, there are several other people that are involved in that as well. At no point during the draft did Jimmy try to influence the decisions that were made. He was well aware — obviously, he was in the room — but at no point did he try to push, shove or dictate the pace of what we were doing. He definitely added some interest level behind the discussions that were happening, but nonetheless, he was allowing us to go to work.”
But if Haslam truly was going to allow them to go to work, he would have stayed out of the process completely. By asking questions and making his position known, he undoubtedly sent signals to Farmer about what the owner wanted. Haslam’s presence in the draft room was a constant reminder that, ultimately, he’s the one in charge.
Again, that’s his right as the owner of the team. But it’s almost like Haslam wants to have it both ways, being involved without officially being involved.